Plan for new state hospital in Junction City under scrutiny

The Junction City water tower
The Junction City water tower as seen from the intersection of West 6th Avenue and Greenwood Street in Junction City, Ore.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A new report recommends building a state psychiatric hospital in Junction City with fewer than half the beds planned.

In a separate report, a consulting firm says reforms at the Oregon State Hospital are hindered by the culture at the main state psychiatric facility in Salem — including distrust, poor communication and a lack of accountability.

Mental health advocates say the state should scrap the proposed Junction City mental psychiatric hospital, not downsize it, The Statesman Journal reported.

"This stinks entirely of politics, which is unfortunate considering real families and real people will be impacted," Chris Bouneff, executive director of NAMI Oregon, a chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, wrote Tuesday in a message to Richard Harris, director of the state Addictions and Mental Health Division.

Bouneff and others say the state mental health budget will be eaten up by adding a second psychiatric hospital only about 50 miles away from the new hospital under construction in Salem to replace aging buildings at the existing facility.

They also say the plan ignores the needs of the mentally ill in the Portland area and in Eastern Oregon.

In a "revised forecast of need for state hospital beds" made public Tuesday, state mental health planners called for the Junction City facility to have 174 beds instead of 360 beds.

"At some point, Richard, I would hope AMH would recognize in some document that the 'need' for Junction City is in direct opposition to the master plan this so-called forecast relies upon," Bouneff said in his message to Harris.

"There wouldn't be one bed — not one — located near the state's major population center, which is clearly stated as a necessity in the master plan. Nor would there be any beds available to Eastern Oregon," Bouneff said.

A decision on whether to proceed with the Junction City hospital is a potentially contentious issue for Oregon lawmakers as the state faces a projected $3.5 billion shortfall in the 2011-13 budget cycle, which starts July 1.

Legislators have approved the two-hospital package, costing $458 million.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, one of the leading proponents of the Junction City project in the Legislature, said Tuesday the new state report confirms need for more hospital-level mental health care in Oregon.

"At the same time, we don't have much money," Courtney said.

"We are working hard to meet the Justice Department mandates at the Oregon State Hospital and we are also trying to add more community-based beds," he said. " 'Right-sizing' the Junction City facility will help us meet these critical goals with our limited resources."

Plans to build two new hospitals to replace the 127-year-old Oregon State Hospital in Salem were drawn up after state-hired consultants in 2005 deemed the entire complex obsolete and unsafe.

In a separate report on the mental hospital released by an Indiana-based consulting team working on a $2 million state contract, hospital employees who were interviewed and completed an online survey said problems include accountability, no shared vision for the future, fear of retribution, ambiguity about roles and responsibilities, poor communication and lack of training.

The Kaufman Global consulting team identified the lack of accountability as "one of the greatest opportunities for improvement."

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

 

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.